NEWS

Garbage strike illegal

Intensive efforts by municipal authorities appeared to be opening the way for an end to the strike by garbage collectors which has led to some 40,000 tons of garbage piling up in streets in the greater Athens area. The union of municipal employees, POE-OTA, late last night decided to continue the weeklong strike for another day. Shortly afterwards, an Athenian court accepted an Interior Ministry request to declare the strike illegal and an abuse of the right to strike. It was not immediately clear if the strike would end right away. Public health officials warned of the hazards presented by the garbage decomposing in residential neighborhoods, outside schools and hospitals. With rainstorms forecast for today, there were fears that the filth would be swept down city streets. As it was, even if the strike ended today it would take up to the middle of next week to clear Athens’s streets. Athens Municipality cleanup crews were on standby from yesterday morning, ready to begin work. «With a sense of responsibility, we must decide that which is right, so as not to continue creating problems for the country’s people,» the president of the POE-OTA federation, T. Balasopoulos, said at the start of last night’s meeting. Earlier, Paris Koukoulopoulos, president of the local authorities’ federation, KEDKE, met with strikers’ representatives and assured them that many of their financial demands would be met. He said that if the strike were suspended, a dialogue aimed at meeting strikers’ institutional demands would be completed by November 4. Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis said also that if the strike were suspended he would enter into dialogue today. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni appealed to strikers to end their walkout. Their representatives said talks with Koukoulopoulos and Bakoyianni had been positive. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, addressing his PASOK party’s Executive Bureau on Wednesday night, reportedly expressed anger at the ongoing strike. The government called on civil servants’ federation ADEDY not to provide legal cover for the strikers, which it can do when a strike is declared illegal. The opposition New Democracy party accused the government of responsibility for the the fact that «Athens and other cities are drowning in garbage.» Government spokesman Christos Protopappas demanded that ND make clear «whether or not it is calling for an end to the strike.»